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Center of the American Experiment: A Frightening Reminder that Edina Isn’t Immune to Fearmongering, Lies

Tanner Jones, online copy editor

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Last week, I was dismayed to sift through my family’s mail and find a copy of Thinking Minnesota, a magazine sponsored by noted Minnesota-based conservative think tank, Center of the American Experiment. Its flashy, propagandistic cover projects dystopian themes. On it, a teacher points to a blackboard reading, “A is for activist,” and an image of what I can only assume is a depiction of the “black power fist.” Before the teacher sit two gawking students, presumably hypnotized by their school’s liberal curriculum. “WHOSE VALUES?,” the magazine’s title screams, “Educational excellence threatened by ideology in Edina schools.”

Katherine Kersten, the article’s author, boasts an Ivy League background and many bylines at the Star Tribune. But don’t be fooled; her aim has only ever been to provoke fear and controversy. “Perilous,” she once said of same-sex marriage, indicating that its legalization will open the floodgates to polygamy. “Tribal,” she once called Kenyans, in an article in which she likened Rep. Keith Ellison’s (MN 5) proposal for a “Peace Department” to Norway’s 1939 declaration of Neutrality to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Her thoughts are both unfounded and absurd. This latest piece is no exception.

Kersten begins her attack on Edina as she typically does, by fear-mongering. She paints a very different Edina than I’ve ever experienced, one where test scores are falling and “kids are not ‘on track for success.’” In reality, Edina remains an elite academic juggernaut. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report awarded Edina High School a gold medal for academic success and ranked it fourth out of 769 high schools in the state; teachers regularly win awards (just two weeks ago my calculus class was interrupted when my teacher was commended for his dedication to technological innovation); and students routinely excel in academically-oriented extracurriculars. If you want more evidence, look to the list of Minnesota seniors who qualified as National Merit Semifinalists. You’ll find that Edina High School features far more names than the vast majority of its counterparts and is only bested by schools with significantly larger student bodies. But perhaps the clearest example of Edina’s persistent dedication to success is Edina Public School’s 2015 referendum, which pledges over $120 million for academic improvements and innovations throughout the district over the next two decades.

Even if you don’t believe me when I tell you that Edina is academically strong, you still shouldn’t fall for Kersten’s argument because most of what she says is patently false. Below are various quotes from the article, including alleged quotes from EHS students and parents; beneath are my responses.

“During Edina’s ‘May Term,’ our child had no choice but to take a class called ‘Race, Racism and Whiteness.’”

Please don’t believe this. Students absolutely have a choice in what May Term classes they take. I invite you to read this document which describes the May Term registration procedures and this document which lists all 100 May Term classes, including 99 which are not called “Race, Racism, and Whiteness.”

“Many fear retaliation–in terms of grades or humiliation–if they voice a contrary opinion.”

It’s unfortunate that some students may feel this way. However, there are ample opportunities at Edina High School for conservative students to voice their opinions. Numerous conservative students wrote articles in Zephyrus last year, and EHS’s Young Conservatives Club boasts over 250 members. Additionally, I can think of several classes I’ve taken that encourage respectful intellectual debates, leaving room for opinions on both sides of the aisle. I lean conservative on a number of issues and have particularly enjoyed debating hot-button issues in classes at Edina.

“One teacher told the class Trump winning was worse than 9/11 and Columbine.”

I can’t prove that this didn’t happen, but I’ve never heard anyone mention it, nor can I think of a teacher at Edina who would’ve said this. I urge you to err on the side of reason on this one and not believe this claim without substantial proof.

“The day of the election every single student was in the commons chanting ‘F*** TRUMP.’”

This is ludicrous and frankly laughable. Last year I walked through the commons on election day between every class and have absolutely no recollection of this. What I do remember from election day, however, was a group of students telling a Latino student that he would soon be deported.

“A striking violation of [district] policy occurred on November 22, 2016, when Edina High’s student newspaper ran an editorial … about the presidential election. It was … hyper-partisan.”

Please read the editorial for yourself. There are four references to the election in it. One which simply refers to it as “divisive,” something that’s indisputably true. Another passage says the campaign “might have” left some students feeling targeted, another fact. A third simply states “some [students] were crying the morning after the election.” And a final reference states, “no matter … who you supported, you can recognize political decisions have far-ranging personal consequences,” something else to which every sensible person can agree.

The real purpose of the editorial was to respond to an event that EHS teachers would’ve been wrong not to respond to: an Edina High School student posting the n-word to social media along with a picture of himself surrounded by a drawn-on white robe and the letters “K.K.K.” “Hyper-partisan” is the last term that should be used to describe this. This editorial was no more than a call for peace in a time of turmoil.

Ultimately, Kersten’s piece is no more than what you should expect from her: partisan lies. She points to a marginal decline in Edina’s academics—which numerous sources thoroughly debunk—and jumps to the conclusion that the decline must have been caused by the proliferation of liberal ideology. Her assertions are absurd and purely anecdotal, coming largely from anonymous sources. She condemns activism, something as American as baseball and apple pie, and teachers for taking a firm stance against the ideology of the K.K.K. Don’t believe this article. Don’t fall for fear-mongering.

I want to emphasize that I chose to write this article completely of my own volition. It was not prompted by Zephyrus, the EHS administration, or any teachers.

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38 Comments

38 Responses to “Center of the American Experiment: A Frightening Reminder that Edina Isn’t Immune to Fearmongering, Lies”

  1. Dick Novack on October 13th, 2017 10:12 pm

    Well done! It has just been link/featured on the Edina Talks Facebook page and will be linked on the EdinaTalks.com. So far since the CAE “article” came out, related topics have been viewed 28,000 times.

    [Reply]

  2. Julie Konrardy on October 14th, 2017 8:21 am

    Excellent rebuttal. Thanks so much for exposing the flaws in Ms Kerstens article, her opinions do not represent my Minnesota. You obviously have received a great education at EHS. Keep up the good work!

    [Reply]

    Grace Reply:

    Yes! Thank you!!!

    [Reply]

  3. Heather Edelson on October 14th, 2017 9:15 am

    I am so glad you spoke up! A well written article. Thank you.

    [Reply]

  4. Alicia Andre on October 14th, 2017 9:28 am

    Thank you for helping us understand what is honest and what is fear mongering. The American Experiment chose to target one of the best schools in the country. What is their motive? Is it to influence the upcoming levy? Is it to influence the upcoming school board election? Is it to spread their right wing ideology? I so appreciate your article as it just shows that people in Edina are smarter than this. We cannot be duped into thinking that Edina schools are failing our kids. Both of my kids graduated from EHS and like you they have had amazing teachers. Edina schools attract the best of the best. Let’s honor our teachers. They do not deserve these mean-spirited attacks.

    [Reply]

  5. Erin Palestrini on October 14th, 2017 9:47 am

    Excellent piece! Thank you for speaking the truth from actual experience. We cannot let someone who doesn’t even live in Edina nor have children in our schools sabotage our city and school’s reputation with lies and jeopardize the levy getting passed! Bravo!

    [Reply]

  6. Rick Dow on October 14th, 2017 1:43 pm

    Very well written, Tanner! Your parents should be proud.

    [Reply]

    Julie McMahon Reply:

    Incredibly proud. The pen is mightier than the sword.

    [Reply]

  7. Tripp on October 14th, 2017 6:41 pm

    Well done Tanner

    [Reply]

  8. mabel thomas on October 14th, 2017 8:10 pm

    Nice one, Tanner!

    [Reply]

  9. phil ford on October 14th, 2017 8:47 pm

    Thank you, Tanner, for your excellent rebuttal to Kersten’s tired hack job.

    As an example of Edina’s educational system, you demonstrate that your schools are doing a fine job teaching critical thinking.

    [Reply]

  10. Avanti Mehrotra on October 14th, 2017 10:42 pm

    Thank you for writing this rebuttal. It was essential. Having lived in Edina for last many years, having children in the schools and having friends of various different ethnic/ cultural groups…I just could not believe, justify or understand what Kirsten’s article was trying to say. The homophobic nature of such talk harms the community spirit.
    Great job!

    [Reply]

  11. Laura Jones on October 14th, 2017 11:25 pm

    Katherine Kersten sounds like a right piece of divisive work herself. Goodness.

    [Reply]

  12. Eva Lockhart on October 15th, 2017 9:43 am

    Terrific rebuttal Tanner. I appreciate having a student voice address this controversy. Also, as an English teacher in Minneapolis, I’m delighted by your cogent and well articulated expression! Clearly you have learned well in Edina. I wish you great success in the future, perhaps as a journalist? ☺

    [Reply]

  13. Jennifer Nowak on October 15th, 2017 1:06 pm

    Excellent, thoughtful article. Thank you for taking the time to debunk Ms. Kersten’s slanted arguments. I’m so glad that there are young people like you thinking for themselves and standing up for the truth.

    [Reply]

  14. Nelson Rosario on October 15th, 2017 9:41 pm

    Bravo, Tanner. That was an excellent and meticulously researched opinion piece. That author should be ashamed of herself.

    [Reply]

  15. Tim Streeter on October 15th, 2017 11:54 pm

    Excellent rebuttal. Keep the light of truth turned on, and these conservative cockroaches will stay in the darkness they’ve created.

    [Reply]

  16. Kaji on October 16th, 2017 6:53 am

    Bravo! As soon as I heard Katharine Kersten was involved with this, I knew something was up. She’s never really bothered with little things like facts.

    [Reply]

  17. Eve Berg on October 16th, 2017 12:23 pm

    I just put the magazine back in my mailbox with “return to sender” on it.

    [Reply]

  18. Erich Russell on October 16th, 2017 7:30 pm

    Katherine Kersten gave a key note speech to an annual dinner at this reviled think tank several years back that noted the survival rate of individuals pitched form a capsizing vessel in the notoriously cold North Sea favored older sailors. From this she reasoned that a lifetime of suffering would be better for the poor than the modern welfare provisions. For this she got a standing ovation. She failed to note that older individuals tend to accumulate more body fat, which acts as an insulator against hypothermia. That would have messed with her predetermined theme.

    [Reply]

  19. Wow on October 18th, 2017 8:17 pm

    you are so smart. Good luck in life

    [Reply]

  20. Leif on October 19th, 2017 8:08 am

    Thank you for this well written and well reasoned piece. Edina is a fantastic community with an amazing school system and it’s great to see a student taking the time to stand up for it.

    [Reply]

  21. Jimmy on October 21st, 2017 11:50 am

    Another brainwashed student at Edina attempts to defend the shameful behavior taking place at Edina.

    [Reply]

  22. Stephen Kung on October 21st, 2017 3:22 pm

    Thank you for your calm, reasonable response. Kersten’s words may allege a liberal conspiracy, but they are rooted more in the emotional and intellectual fragility of White Nationalism than in reality. Even if her anecdotes about “persecution” of conservative whites were all true, they would pale in comparison, both in frequency and intensity, to the treatment women, people of color, LGBT people, the disabled, and non-conformists receive on a regular basis. Just as it will fall upon men to end sexual harassment, it will fall upon conservatives to repudiate the crude populism and intellectual radicalism that has usurped their mantle. Decency needs to speak as loudly as fear. This is a good start.

    [Reply]

  23. Brad Bolin on October 22nd, 2017 8:30 pm

    Tanner:

    I found Kersten’s article deeply flawed, cynical, and manipulative. Thank you for your well-written and well-reasoned refutation. It was necessary.

    Sincerely,

    Brad Bolin

    [Reply]

  24. Dan Macgowan on October 22nd, 2017 8:54 pm

    Horrible rebuttal Tanner.
    I can name 4 teachers from when I attended Edina in the 1984-86 that would have stated that Trump line. The school was skewed to the Left then, and given some of the recent pronouncements, it is far worse today. That test scores are down isn’t in doubt. Edina has fallen from it’s once high standing by concerning itself with things outside of academics.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Even if test scores are down, how does that prove that the cause was liberals? That’s correlation without causation. It’s like saying since alcoholics are in AA groups their alcoholism is caused by AA. Just because two things exist doesn’t mean they are related. Plus, since when is acknowledging racism and teaching students it’s bad a bad thing?? Next time, think before you comment.

    [Reply]

  25. Erick on October 23rd, 2017 4:02 pm

    Tanner – looks like the indoctrination is strong in Edina indeed. Kersten and the CAE are proven right with your utterly ignorant ‘rebuttal’. Answer the basic charge — is liberal indoctrination occurring in Edina or NOT?

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    Why is rebuttal in quotation marks? This is clearly a rebuttal. How about you listen to the student actually at the high school instead of assuming what’s going on there.

    [Reply]

  26. Jerry on October 26th, 2017 12:34 am

    What an extremely well-written piece, Tanner. Clearly the Edina school system is doing something right.

    A few points of concern from a father whose children have yet to enter the school system:

    Keith Ellison is an open anti-Semite. Be careful for whom you jump to defend. Ms. Kersten—who’s existence I was unfamiliar with prior to reading your piece-was merely drawing a parallel between wartime initiatives (I just finished reading her 2008 article). Invoking Nazis without context, something you’re guilty of early on in your piece, is a literary form of fearmongering. It’s a cheap way of discrediting your opponent.

    “Race, racism and whiteness” is a course with an objective: shaming white people. There’s a reason Edina’s superintendent lied about its title to the US Commission on Civil Rights. In such a course, young people will be schooled on “white privilege”, while white students will be taught how to feel guilty. The fact that such a course, along with “LGBTQ studies” is merely an elective, is irrelevant. Any school that offers such courses surely pushes its morality in other avenues of education (history, literature, etc). We do not send our students to school in order for them to be indoctrinated by the school district. Leave the morality to us at home.

    [Reply]

    Locke Reply:

    “Keith Ellison is an open anti-Semite” That is a clear distortion of the truth

    [Reply]

    Jerry Reply:

    I would implore you to do some research on Mr. Ellison. Let me give you some clear points of reference:

    1.) Look into Mr. Ellison’s deep association with Louis Farrakhan, and his defense of Mr. Farrakhan’s brazen anti-Semitism.

    2.) Here’s a quote from Mr. Ellison, while defending another anti-Semite associate Stokley Carmichael: “The University’s position appears to be this: Political Zionism is off-limits no matter what dubious circumstances Israel was founded under; no matter what the Zionists do to the Palestinians; and no matter what wicked regimes Israel allies itself with – like South Africa. This position is untenable.”

    3.) In 2009, Mr. Ellison headlined a fundraiser for Esam Omeish, who is famous for telling Palestinians that “the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.”

    4.) Mr. Ellison has a deplorable record in votes opposing Israel, including simple defense votes.”

    5.) Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat, whose article in The Hill generously laid out Ellison’s liberal resume, relayed a story where Ellison told a fellow law student that he could not respect her because she was a Jew.

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    Your first and fifth points are, at best, lacking in the evidence department.

    The second point is out of context. If you read the full speech you’ll see that he was giving important points about people in the region. Have you ever considered that it maybe didn’t make sense to inject thousands of foreign people into a land they had vacated centuries earlier without any consent from those living there? It’s blatant colonization and is no different than Europeans coming to the Americas. Why did Native Americans violently rebel against European colonizers? It’s a natural response to a violation of rights. I’m not defending terrorism, but pointing out that the cause of it is clearly rooted in racist and unjustified actions by the West. The assumption that Westerners are inherently more deserving of that area of land obviously has an underlying racist idea. Plus if you look at the legalized abuse of Palestinians by the Israeli regime, much of which is currently pending as potential violations of the Geneva convention, you’ll see that many of those practices are condemned even by many Jewish people (including me).

    Your third point is wrong for two reasons. First, it’s also out of context. Second, look up the word Jihad. It has a positive history of charity and good-will. Unfortunately its message has been distorted by terrorist extremists and caused bad opinions for ignorant people like you.

    Your fourth point isn’t a bad thing given what I said before.

    Stop regurgitating bad opinions without making an effort to acknowledge the other side’s points.

    Jerry Reply:

    Your defense of an open anti-Semite makes you equally hateful, Jerry. Your purposeful distortion of what “Jihad” means in such an aggressive context is as disturbing as it is ignorant. Mr. Ellison was clearly promoting the idea of violence.

    Normally I’d leave the discussion right here. It would not be my intent to give someone promoting such hateful ideals an extended platform. However for the sake of anyone else following this back-and-forth, I’ll reply one last time. Afterall, must destroy such hateful initiatives.

    It is very convenient to dismiss the claims being made by Mr. Dershowitz, who relayed a story from a female law student who accused Mr. Ellison of telling her that he couldn’t respect her because she is a Jew. Mr. Dershowitz is a liberal Democrat with no hidden agenda.

    Let’s be clear: The Nation of Islam is an open and proud anti-Semitic organization, who has long promoted indecency and violence against Jews, among other groups. Why is this fact significant? Because Mr. Ellison lied about being a member, after being exposed as someone who worked for them.

    Below are some quotes from
    Louis Farrakhan, longtime leader of the Nation of Islam, the organization Mr. Ellison was associated with:

    “The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.”

    “It is now becoming apparent that there were many Israelis and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attacks. Israelis had foreknowledge of the attacks… We know that many Jews received a text message not to come to work on September 11”

  27. Locke on October 31st, 2017 7:38 pm

    Good Rebuttal.

    [Reply]

  28. Bob on November 5th, 2017 11:19 pm

    The magazine cover is a reference to Highlands Elementary School Principal Kathryn Mahoney recommending the book “A is for Activist” as a resource for students.
    http://hlwonders.blogspot.com/2017/04/41417.html

    The book has been described by Occupy Wall Street as, “Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, but for two-year olds.”

    “… her aim has only ever been to provoke fear and controversy.” That’s an impossible, unethical and rude claim. The thing about bias it that it cuts both ways.

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    Let me get this straight… Howard Zinn’s: A People’s History of the United States is a bad book? WHAT?!? It’s been hailed as revolutionary in education for giving a perspective to those who have been historically ignored by traditional history classes (native Americans, African Americans, Eastern European immigrants, Western European immigrants, the list goes on). Instead of taking a stance against important literature because Bill O’Rielly called it “socialist”, buy the book, read it, and make your own opinion.

    [Reply]

    Jerry Reply:

    Zinn’s book is a radically-bias, Marxist interpretation of our history. He makes no secret of this. It spits in the face of intellectualism; instead, following the Alinsky model of dumbing down the product in order to divide and conquer. Let me sum it up for you:

    White males = Awful, wealth-stealing savages.

    Minorities = Perennial victims who built this country.

    [Reply]

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Center of the American Experiment: A Frightening Reminder that Edina Isn’t Immune to Fearmongering, Lies